Coyote Con

Just a super quick note to remind anyone who is interested that I’ll be be on the ‘Zine Evolution panel with JA Howe, Karen Newman, Megan Arkenberg and John Klima at Coyote Con tomorrow at 5pm EST.

It should be a very busy day for me as Danica has a dance and choir performance in the morning and afternoon (MST) which will mean a lot of rushing before I make it back home to go on the panel. Check it out though, it’s free and should be informative 🙂

Strawberry Creek Retreat

First of all, I sold another zombie poem the other day. It will be on Everyday Weirdness June 3rd Yay!

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you likely know I’ve been going through a bit of Con withdrawal. It’s sad but true. I missed the last World Fantasy convention and also World Horror in Brighton (and Neil Freaking Gaiman! Gah!) to apply to attend Clarion West (they said no). There is something incredibily rejuvenating about writers conventions to me, it’s something in the air (and seeing my friends doesn’t hurt either). I’ve been looking for cons closer to home and thus less costly in order to get a ‘fix’ but so far I’ve found nada. So I turned my gaze back to World Fantasy in Columbus.

I want to go. I want to go SO bad. It’s a World Fantasy convention, that puts it very high on my ‘want’ list all by itself, but when you add in the fact it’s in Columbus where my friend Amber lives (who I’ve not met in three dimensions yet) I really, really wanted to go.

I won’t be though. *sigh*

It’s disappointing, but I think it’s also the grown-up decision.

You see, instead of going to World Fantasy I’ll be spending a fraction of that money and going to the Strawberry Creek Writers Retreat instead. While I’m there I will be re-writing a first draft of Shadows (you read that right). I could go to World Fantasy, but let’s face it, it would be more of a party weekend than a professional one. If I go to Strawberry Creek I will make good progress on a novel I really love and maybe, just maybe, give me something to sell (whether to agents, editors or readers) at a future World Fantasy.

It’s the right thing to do, but it’s still disappointing.

Sometimes being a grown up sucks, eh?

New Self Portrait

I actually spend a lot of time dodging cameras, but it was raining like crazy the other day so I was taking some pictures through my rain-streaked back door and thought I’d see if I couldn’t take a self-portrait I didn’t hate because my current avatars are a couple years old now. This is the result. Considering that it was completely unplanned and my current aversion to being on the wrong side of the camera lnes, I think it’s pretty good. Yay rainy reflections!

First Time Meeting

Last week I blogged a little bit about my critique group, and some of the comments were quite thought provoking. One thing I was reminded of was the very first time I met with my critique group.

I’d discovered the ‘Edmonton Writers’ group on Facebook group and joined, mostly, to have my profile say I was a member of ‘Edmonton Writers’. Sad but true. I had no intention at all of using the forums, making friends or meeting with any of the people there. But I did. I don’t remember all the details, but I think I was eventually worn down by repeated event invitations to join the weekly critique group. Eventually I said I’d go.

They were meeting at a Second Cup downtown and Danica was away for the evening, so Jo and I went out for dinner and then made our way to Second Cup.

I was nervous. Really nervous. I had no idea what to expect, whether I’d like the people there or they’d like me. I didn’t know how many there would be, or what their meeting format was, but I went. I went, but I had a planned out. Jo was going to sit and read in a different section of the coffeeshop than the meeting was taking place in. If I needed/wanted to leave I could just use him as my excuse and bail. You know, “Well, this has been fun and I’m sorry to run out early but my husband is actually waiting for me. Maybe I’ll see you next week.”.

To make a long story short I didn’t use my out and Jo, wonderful husband that he is, sat and read for two hours while I hung out, listened to critiques and met the group. I met my best friend, BD, at that critique group meeting, and that group eventually evolved to be the one I meet with still, so to say that I’m glad I went would be a vast understatement.

We found out later when I confessed to the group that Jo had been my ‘out’ that at least one of the other members had also set up quick escape plans. Just in case. 🙂

Also, how awesome is Jo for hanging out for two hours just in case?

1k Words For the Day: Tim

I took this shot sometime in 2009. that is not my cat, he’s my neighbour’s and his name is Tim. Tim is extremely friendly and I adore him, as does my family and pretty much our entire neighbourhood I think. I snapped this pic of him when he was hanging out on our front step.

Critique Groups

Writing, as anyone who writes will tell you, is a solitary occupation (I find myself having a difficult time resisting making a ‘people who live in your mind’ joke here, so I’ll just confess that and keep going). Like any sub culture, we seek one another out, but I think writers may take it a step further than some others. We need interraction with people who understand us, or, I should say, I need interraction with people who understand me.

I surround myself with writers/editors/publishers online. I follow them on Twitter, I’m friends with them on Facebook, I read their blogs, I email them. They are my friends. I go to conventions to visit them and make new friends, and once a week, once a week I meet with my critique group.

Each Wednesday we meet to critique each other’s work and, possibly more important, to talk. I need that.

My critique group has evolved a bit over the years, but currently there are four of us. Myself, BD, Cindy and Lauren. We don’t all write the same genres, we don’t all like the same things, but we respect one another and we understand one another.

It’s fantastic to have them read my stuff and offer intelligent and informed opinions on it. They have dramatically affected my work. Stories have become vastly better because of suggestions or feedback they’ve given me. As a couple quick examples:

  • Lost and Found became twice as long as it originally was
  • Deadmonton became 1/3 as long as it originally was
  • The entire ending of Shadows was changed. For the better.
  • My zombie munchkin piece “…Oh My!” gained a character and got much tighter

Those are only a few examples. Unfortunately I can’t give anymore specific ones because mostly they critique my longer work, most of which hasn’t been published yet. Yet. The point is their feedback is invaluable. It has helped me become a stronger writer far faster than I ever could without them.

However, they are more than that. They are my friends. I can vent to them, share pain, bounce ideas. They understand the writing process, they get it because they’re right there with me. They help keep me motivated to write, to have something every week for them to critique. They are awesome.

If you write, do you have a critique group? If not, do you want one? My life wouldn’t be the same without mine.

P.S. I’ll be writing and sending out my newsletter later today 🙂

1k Words For the Day: Crabapple Blooms

I’m going to start posting some of my photos on this blog. My way-too-overthought plan is to post psuedo-random pics from my collection on Mondays and Fridays and then post something current on Wednesdays. I’m going to use the scheduled blog option to set these up ahead of time so that even on days when I’m far too busy to post, something will get posted. The hope then, is that I will be able to find time and motivation to post actual blogs containing thoughts, words and news on Tuesday and/or Thursdays. Keep your fingers crossed anyway.

The title, 1k Words For the Day is what I’m calling the photo posts. If a picture is worth a thousand words… yeah, cheesy, but I like it 🙂

I took this particular picture a year ago this month. It’s of a bloom on one of the crabapple trees in my backyard. I was just outside yesterday taking new pictures of those trees (as they are blooming again) so I may post one of those in the not-too-distant future, but then again, I may not 😉

cropped-Sunset.jpg

Rejection

cropped-Sunset.jpgA lot of people around me are talking about rejection these days. When you consider that I tend to surround myself with writers that should come as no surprise. However, more people than usual are talking about rejection, so now it’s my turn.

If you write for publication you will get rejected. People, no matter how awesome thay are, may not understand the extent of that or how it affects you unless they are also writers. Jo is fantastic. He is incredibly supportive of me and my writing. Wholly and completely. Yet, I remember a year or two ago I was happy about receiving a personalised rejection from an agent. Jo made some sort of joke, I don’t remember it exactly, what I remember is what it helped coalesce in my brain. That is this: As I writer I deal with a ridiculous amount of rejection. In order to stay sane and be able to keep doing this I need to learn to celebrate every victory, no matter how small. That means personal rejections.

It’s true.

My acceptance ratio, according to Duotrope’s Digest, for the past twelve months is 27.27%. This is a bit of an aberration based on the fact I’m not submitting as much so far this year than last. Last year my acceptance ratio was about 15%. Let’s play with that number. A 15% acceptance ratio means that people are telling me no 85% of the time. I send out ten pieces I get told no eight (and a half) times. Crazy! You need to develop a “thick skin” or find a way to deal with rejection if you’re going to keep plugging away in the face of that. As if that weren’t bad enough, I’m told by Duotrope’s Digest that my acceptance ratio is higher than the average for people submitting to the same markets as me. That means I’m stinking lucky to be accepted 15% of the time.

Lucky.

Compounding the issue is the way we perceive those rejections. We give them so much more weight than they deserve. Truly. For example, one of the people who co-wrote the poem “Alone” which we sold to Sorcerous Signals blogged about it recently and said something about the huge number of rejections the piece recieved before being sold. He, Arnold Emmanuel, actually said, and I quote:

…Rhonda sent out submission requests and omg, lots of rejection letters.  I thought to myself “Oh well, it won’t be published, that’s okay, least we tried,” and then one day all of a sudden I get an email that says something like “Remember that poem Alone we worked on,” and I’m thinking oh, and another rejection letter, but no, we got published!

How many rejection letters did we collect on the poem before selling it? How many ‘nos’ did we get before he figured ‘Oh well…’ and gave up on that poem being published? Two. Two. And not two markets that are easy to place work with either. I’m talking about Lone Star Stories and Goblin Fruit.

Now, lest it seem like I’m picking on Arnold, I’m not. I’m merely using his words to show how subjective our perception of rejection is because I think we give it too much power. I’ve another friend who wrote a story with the intention of submitting it to a specific market, sent it to that market and got turned down. His reaction is to trunk the story. I was shocked. Really? All that work and you’re going to say ‘Oh well…’ and give up on it after one submission? See? Again, giving a rejection notice too much power.

As an editor I can tell you, someone passing on your submission does not mean the submission is bad. It really doesn’t. Honest, honest, honest.

Remember Heinlein’s rules for writing*?

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

I tend to disagree with #3, but as for 4 & 5 he’s so right. Okay, occasionally I will stop submitting a story and trunk it, for whatever reason, but not after only a handful of rejection notices.

Rejection is a part of writing for publication. It’s something we all need to deal with and the better our coping skills are the more likely we are to succeed because, when it comes down to it, perseverance is a HUGE ingredient in the recipe for success in this industry.

When I first started submitting my work I picked ‘easier’ markets who had higher acceptance ratios than others. I didn’t mind if I didn’t get paid then, I just wanted to see my name in print. For me, that was a good way to go because it allowed me to deal with rejection on a smaller scale than I would have been if I’d started out submitting to pro markets. Slowly, over time as my confidence built my standards rose. Now I don’t submit to markets that don’t offer me some sort of payment and I enjoy sending my stuff to the tougher markets. It’s a challenge. (Just wait until they start saying yes, then there will be a hell of a party here at the Parrish household 😉 )

I also, like I told Jo so long ago, deal with rejection by celebrating my victories, even the little ones. Every acceptance, every personal rejection, every sincere compliment for my work is worthy of celebration, and gets it. As for when something gets rejected, my favorite way to deal with that is to immediately send it out again. Then, instead of dwelling on the rejection and feeling bad I can feel hopeful and optimistic about potential acceptance at the new market.

A friend of mine did a blog entry about rejection recently and asked if it ever stops stinging, even a little bit. For me the answer is yes. I am disappointed when someone passes on a piece I’ve sent them, but I’m not hurt. There’s a distance between myself and my writing that wasn’t there in the begining, and an understanding that really, sometimes stories and poems just aren’t a good fit. It doesn’t mean they aren’t a good read.

How do you deal with rejection?

On a related, but happier note, I sold a zombie poem, “Fluffy” to Diakaijuzine this morning. Yay!

*Robert J. Sawyer added a 6th rule that I think is fabulous. That rule being “Start work on something else.”

Blog post edited in February 2014 to add a photograph.